Monday, July 27, 2015


Happy Mother's Day and 50th birthday to me!
Trying not to sound like I am in a Confessional, I will write that it has been almost three months since I last posted in my blog. All the while during this time that I had decided just to end it,  there was a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that this was just plain rude.  Rude because my family, friends and followers, would be left hanging lol and wondering what happened to Ray and I in Panama.  Okay, if you are our family and friends you would know with or without this blog that nothing had happened to us.  And truthfully, I have had a few blog followers email me asking if I was okay.  Thanks!  You know who you are out there.  They have emailed me asking if we are still in Panama and what we are up to these days.  I simply just stopped writing and journaling about our adventure retiring to Panama.  I stopped writing about our adventures and also normal, daily events once living in Panama.  I stopped writing after almost three years, close to one year after leaving my dental hygiene job and dental world and almost one year after living in Panama.  My first post was written May 3, 2012.

When it comes to days and dates with remembering and recording, I was told, and not in a nice way, many years ago that I was calculated, and yes, when it comes to numbers and dates and things that have happened on a certain day or during a certain time period in my life, I am still that good at remembering things.  These days and dates have meaning to me.  I remember exactly where I was, what I was doing, what I had asked about, and what day it was for that matter when I was "reprimanded" about being calculated.  And while writing that paragraph just now and remembering that person and that day, I realized, who cares what I was reprimanded for and what happened in the past.  Just get on with ending the blog.

So what really happened with blogging.  Ray and I got busy.  Like all new retirees in a strange country, we met wonderful people and made great friends, and I decided I didn't need to put it all out there anymore.  After filming for House Hunters International, then I really decided I don't need to tell all.  It is all pretty much out there now.  Ray suggested blogging once a month.  Easy for him to say.  He knows me better than to think I could come up with something short and sweet each month.  I am too detailed to keep a monthly blog or journal.  My family knows what we are doing and what is
going on in our lives, our friends we have made in Panama are living it with us and don't need to be put out there in my blog (thanks to those that have been a part of it and given the "okay" and also to those that got me started blogging in the first place), and our life long friends keep in touch enough to keep up with our busy days.  We face time family and friends and keep in touch now with those that want to stay in touch.  Facebook and Instagram are great social medias as well.  Everyone can keep in touch this way.  And House Hunters International will be on soon enough (no air date given as of today), and more of my life will be put out there for all to see.  Oh dear.  Why, where, when, and how we bought the house, etc...more details that I probably didn't need to share, but anyone retiring to Panama will hopefully appreciate the information.

***Thursday, September 17, 10:30 pm Eastern Time HGTV Channel House Hunters International airdate set with our title being "All Their Money went to Coronado"  So now you know where we bought a house (and not in Coronado).

Those that follow me on my blog and have been reading this for three years have emailed me and know to continue emailing me any questions they have about Panama.  They have found me and sought me out for answers (if I can help).  They have found me in Panama as well (which is still so odd to me and takes me by surprise every time I hear "are you the Allison that writes the blog?").  I will leave my email out there, but I will put the blog to rest.  I continue to journal, and I doubt I will ever put that to rest.

So with ending it, what has gone on these past three months that those possibly making the move to Panama would love to read about, what do we do with our days, and what are some of the activities that have taken place with the fantastic friends we have made in such a short period of time?

In no specific order, here goes:

Moving into the house, vacationing from retirement (right now), floating in the pool, attending pool and dinner parties, meeting new neighbors, seeing a Mystery play in the city, learning to paint a canvas, attending a wine tasting in the city, attending CASA coffee and wine socials, shopping for furniture and shopping some more, weekly Spanish lessons, checking in on the girls at Woody's House of Hope and delivering donations (the summer is quiet while MC is on mission trip), organizing the books in the library at Woody's, volunteering for Spay the Strays clinics, going to the dentist, taking friends to Gatun Locks, shopping in Casco Antiguo, helping friends move (Ray), tackling the hammer drill to hang pictures (Ray), serving as a TV and internet technician (again, Ray), attending PriceSmart Grand Opening (a huge deal haha), trying new restaurants (Fusion Playas, El Galyeon, La Posada, Restaurante Fu, Casa Florencia) and patronizing the old (Bluwater, Sukha, Lunarossa, Gourmet Pizza, Leonardos, Bamboo Express, El Pampero, Carlitos, Beirut, Pantay, Machetazo Cafe), watching fireworks on the beach along with nights spent watching amazing lightning (it's rainy season, but we always can use more rain), listening to bands at Picasso's and Sukha's, re-learning the game of tennis (love this and thanks to our Coach and friends for being so helpful and patient!), trying yoga (key word is trying), walking with friends through Coronado's Dry Forest, enjoying coffee and conversation at the bakery, planning trips to Virginia (where we are as I write this) to Colorado and maybe South America, planning return trips to Boquete and Contadora, and, as if all that wasn't enough, we always enjoy those happy hours chatting with old and new friends (and the occasional blog follower, too!).

And finally (and perhaps most importantly here), Ray and I have simply loved lounging and being lazy on our patio reading or inside on the big comfy couch catching up on TV shows and movies relishing our new home in this thing called retirement in Panama.

Visited with friends in Miami over Mother's Day weekend.

Watched the tide surge come in at Coronado Bay.

Hung out while Ray put furniture together.
Jumped out of bed to study Spanish and watch the sunrise.

Enjoyed watching the pool take shape.
Enjoy floating in the spacious and beautiful pool!

Ray made "No Bake Cookies"

I peeled, cut, ate and froze at least 100 mangoes.

Volunteered for Spay the Strays
Read on the patio.

Sunday, April 26, 2015


What a fun way to wrap up the past four days plus three hours with the crew and a few friends today!  I suppose fun is a good way to put it, because it did seem to be more of a lighthearted day.  The day was shorter in content (Ray and I didn't have to stay with the crew the entire day), but the hours were still the same, since we had the "reveal housewarming party" at the end of the day.  But first I have to say again, Ray and I are wiped out.  This is hard work for two retirees!

I guess when I thought I was working hard the past thirty years treating patients over and over and over again, day in and day out, I was mindlessly working or perhaps kicking back and taking it easy, because this HHI filming has been exhausting, and we are not doing a whole lot of anything!  I will say it is mentally nerve wracking, because while I feel I can find it easy to take a decent picture on camera, I seem to stutter a lot in front of Mike's video camera.  And I am usually never at a loss of what to say, but for the past five days, I have not had a whole lot of intelligent things coming out of my mouth.  And yes, I did fall into the trap of saying "looking for open spaces, so we can entertain friends".  The part about having friends over and entertaining is true though.  Ray and I want to enjoy this house with everyone.  But I don't think I ever said "I don't like the paint or the countertops".  I hope.  My point about the work involved is that once my head has hit the pillow, I am out like a light for eight hours!  I am dead asleep.  I am sure it has a lot to do with the sunshine and heat.

 Before then, This morning we all met at the chosen property (!) at 8:30 am, loaded up on coffee and within an hour we had filmed the interview about the decision Ray and I had made and our choice of homes.  We also discussed how we have fared these past few weeks, or past week, or maybe this past month (however long they decide to make it later on in editing) living here finally!  We then set up to film our day at the beach (Ray and I took the crew to Punta Barco, since it is really just ten minutes away exactly from our garage to sand), and from there, we spent time with the mostly Panamanian weekenders as well as surfers.  It was bright and hot.  It was more driving up and down the hill approaching the beach, walking up to the beach, walking on the beach, getting our feet wet, putting our umbrella up (all the while Chris held a rain umbrella to shelter him from the sun), setting up the chairs, walking and talking some more and so on!  We tried to tie in a face time chat with Carly, because this is what we had discussed during our back story with her February (how easily accessible we would be from Panama with all the wonderful technology we have now).  But Ray and I were too shaded.  So we wrapped it up at the beach after a little more filming of activity along the beach, and once the crew was finished with the B roll filming and lunch, they arrived back at our house to film the big reveal party!  But wait, first we had to cut a pineapple and get the Sangria ready (we did the preparations last night and finished it off today).  We had to discuss the party, and we managed to sneak in a chat with Carly.  Interesting day with face time today though---lack of connection several times.  Of course, the camera is rolling and nothing.  After a few tries, there was Carly!  We talked to her about our guests that were getting ready to arrive (they were in the guest bedroom signing release forms), and we cored and cut a pineapple.  Then we filmed Carly on the video chat (more angles), and the guests were allowed to come out of the bedroom!  I should write here that a few weeks ago I asked the Producer in New York City via email about the "reveal party".  Should I invite friends over?  If so, on which of the four days should they come to the house?  And what time?  How many should I invite to the party?  His response was that it was a great idea (he acted like he had never seen HHI before), and perhaps we could incorporate filming preparations for the party into the show.  HHI would provide flowers and fruit for us to display and cut up for the Sangria.  As the shoot approached, we were then told to have everyone over to the house at 5:00.  This scene would be from 5-6:30.  Then, by filming other scenes yesterday, we were told 4:00.  Then today, it was moved up to 3:00.  This is a shout out of a big thank you to those few friends that we were able to invite being super flexible with the time!  This is also a note to say I wish I could have invited everyone that I was talking to about the "reveal party", but after experiencing these past few days, I definitely understand why even more than ten people would have been a little too much for this scene.  Having more than ten friends over will have to wait until we settle into the house more and have some outdoor furniture as well.  And also, once we are back from vacation!  

Back to the show though--after our face time chat with Carly, and for the next ten minutes or so, the camera was filming whatever it was filming--I had stopped paying attention.  It will be great fun to see who shows up on the show, or perhaps all the guests make it into the scene!  All I know is it was then those beautiful words of "I think we got it all, Mike, don't you" from Elizabeth, and it was a wrap!  After another busy day of seemingly doing nothing, Ray and I are ready for that vacation from retirement!

***I don't know when the air date will be (six months?), and I also don't know when I will get a copy of the show.  I was told to pester the NYC office, because they haven't really connected with the contributors.  Unsure if I really have to see myself crying like a baby on camera or telling Ray those words "you're right", but I am thinking a party with more than six friends is in order with a little more Sangria to go around--that will make it all better!

John hangs out with the crew.

Tricia talks with Elizabeth.

Fortunately, we have bar stools and a couch!

Ray catches up with Judie.

Saturday, April 25, 2015


Another day in the life of "Allison and Ray buy a retirement home in Panama" take 471.  Cut.
In keeping with the element of surprise for the House Hunters International show, like with the other properties, I won't go into too many details about the property we toured today.  What I will say is that going into this HHI experience, we did tell the casting director many months ago what we were both looking for in our retirement home in Panama.  The property we say today covered many of the things that Ray and I were both looking for in a home.  And this time it was a bit comical to me to pull up to the home and see the owners having to leave for a few hours!

We met the crew at the El Rey grocery store in Coronado at eight am, and we followed them to the property.  Stephanie was sent on a coffee run, and the crew set the car up with a Go Pro camera so we could then drive up to the house again.  First, the camera is on Ray and I, and then it is turned to film the road and neighborhood.  Just like yesterday, and the day before--drive to the property, talk about the neighborhood, repeat...we don't see the inside of the house or the rooms until we are ready to tour them, so there is a real reaction to what we think as we walk in.  In a good way, and in a bad way, we react differently at different times.  Our reactions will then be sliced and diced and edited for good television.  We do the same for the outside area.

Next, Roberto greets us at the door, and we spend the next five hours touring the home.  However, about ninety minutes of this time is getting B roll for the show.  This means that Mike and Chris are staying pretty busy with the camera getting shots of the interior and exterior while Elizabeth is taking pictures of us for the HGTV website.  During this time, we read, listen to music and, today, we watched Roberto take a nap.  Hey, get one in while you can!  Today, Elizabeth also read to us an article about Bruce Jenner's interview with Diane Sawyer last night (his transgender story).  We had current events discussion to catch up with what has happened in the world these past three days (mostly about the earthquake in Nepal).  We reviewed the day's schedule and then we made a few more changes to lighten up the load for tomorrow just a little bit more.

After filming the outside of the property, we drove to lunch to a restaurant Ray and I have been to several times for a quick meal.  Stephanie placed the crews order ahead of time, and then it was up to Ray and I to order our meal on camera.  Oh, but first we have to walk into the restaurant a few different ways.  The restaurant was quite crowded, but for the most part everyone kept to themselves.  There was one woman sitting nearby that made sure she greeted us--she seemed to be enjoying "the show".  We all filled up on Panamanian food, hydrated ourselves with water and passionfruit juice, and then dashed off to Coronado Beach Club!  This is where we would film the big reveal! What house will Ray and I decide to buy in Panama!

Although it was more overcast then sunny by now, the humidity was high.  The fortunate thing was that we were walking on the beach, and there was a breeze.  The unfortunate thing was then we went to sit down for more discussion, as in what to do, what to do, there were no breezes.  Boy, where was my assistant now when I needed someone?  I must not have looked too raggedy, because they kept filming the scenes.  Or I did, since this is reality television, I am supposed to look "real".  I am sure I will look like a "hot mess" when this show airs, but I am trying to make light of this whole experience.  Even with a possible surfing lesson put into tomorrow's schedule or whatever the Producer throws our way, Ray and I have thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie among the crew and with our realtor, Roberto.  Sure, it's time consuming and an invasion of our privacy (!).  We knew this when deciding to be a part of the show many months ago.  But with this experience of being on the television show, House Hunters International,  we like that we are able to show Panama and this area (the interior of Panama) along with the communities surrounding our new home.  We will be introducing our realtor and his company along with the development of the other properties we have toured in the past three days.  There is a lot of satisfaction in realizing as well as accomplishing the goals Ray and I set for ourselves many months ago and then attaining them in this thing called retirement.  The show just makes it all that much more real, if that can even be said about a "reality" television show!

We try to stay out of the way and awake during B roll.

Hanging out waiting for all the rooms to be filmed in many different angles.

Elizabeth reads to us the current events.

Scouting out the beach club for our decision reveal!

Friday, April 24, 2015


A much easier day of filming today, since we were filming a property close to home.  And basically, the filming was the same--driving up in the car, talking about the property with Roberto, walking into the property with a big "WOW", and showing our hands in 18,329 shots!  Opening drawers, looking in pantry closets, admiring the dishwasher and modern amenities, has been very interesting to watch the process of filming a thirty minute television show.  And when we walked into the home this morning, the builder of this property had coffee and pastries for the crew.  He allowed filming even though it meant shutting down his office for a few hours this morning.  We spent a very short time touring the home, and then Ray, Roberto and I were told we could leave for fifteen or so minutes while filming of the home without us was done (this is so that the lighting is the same).  That fifteen minutes was an hour plus!  Time didn't really fly by though.  We were then called back to film a few other areas of the house (I am being vague on purpose so as not to spoil the surprise or ruin the ending here haha), took a break for lunch and filmed a bit of the reveal.  For lunch, we enjoyed Don Chacho's rotisserie chicken and greek salad.  This is a restaurant in Coronado that used to have excellent chicken dishes apparently, but it is now trying to be billed as a "steakhouse".  Ray and I have not dined here.   I thought the chicken was deliciously moist and seasoned very well.  In my opinion.  I had a few cookies and brownies to offer for dessert, and there was more coffee.  The 'beach scene" was then discussed, and Roberto was able to leave for the day with his wife, Marla. Ray and I were told to take another break.  Once the front, back, ins and outs of this property were filmed, we were off to film a few Panamanian experiences and adventures we have participated in since arriving here.

The day finished a little earlier than yesterday, so Ray and I were able to enjoy several hours at Sukha Bar and Restaurant.  We sat at a table with ten others (we arrived and turned a table for six into a table for twelve) enjoying dinner.  There is now a fuller dinner menu with steak (we were told it is excellent beef), fish, chicken and salads.  Of course, true to Panamanian fashion, the first thing Ray ordered was not available, but then we split a delicious meal of chicken with peach sauce, potatoes and salad (always have a backup).  Sangria and red wine were right there with it!  And as usual, this day of touring just one home in Panama was a very tiring activity.  Tomorrow, we have one more property to look out and another activity to enjoy, and then, we make the big decision.  Stay tuned!  For now, this retiree needs some rest from retirement.

Ray gets miked up.

Roberto takes a break to work.

Thursday, April 23, 2015


This past Tuesday at two o'clock, our house was complete!  The microwave was perfectly installed, gas was connected to the oven, another hole was dug in the front yard for a palm tree while two were dug in the back on Monday for two other trees.  Shrubs that were transferred over the weekend do not look happy (shock), so they will eventually be replaced, and internet was set up along with TV!  We will use this service for about six months and hopefully within that time frame, Cable Onda will have run cables throughout the subdivision.  I have washed and dried clothes, washed a load of dishes (new), and run the coffeemaker.  I have to yet to use the stove, oven or microwave, but hot dog, Ray and I have a home in Panama!  Such a huge accomplishment!

While at our friend's house for dinner the other night, there was discussion about moving to Panama and building a life here.   We have lived here nine months along with one other couple, while the other two couples have lived here five years.  It was interesting to hear about their accomplishments along with their frustrations in the house building process, and even more interesting to hear what their final straw would have been when moving into their house.  The point at which you just cannot explain anything further, try to change anything (why?), or have something corrected or done in a timely fashion.  Was it with the actual design and construction of the house, the installation of materials, the delivery of furniture, the challenge of speaking the language to get everything done or all of the above?  We also learned that the one couple is very good friends with our landlords (a small world/country!), so before we left, we made plans for the six of us to have dinner one night when our landlords arrive to Panama.

On our way to dinner, we stopped by our furniture maker's shop to inquire about our dresser.  We cannot have Cruze bring it here until May simply because there isn't a time in the next week or so that we will be here during the day to accept delivery of it.  What we gathered from Cruze is that the stain was not the right color, and there was another color, but it was the wrong color, and so on and so forth.  So we will wait for the dresser.  The future restauranteur that also builds furniture came out from the back room and gave Ray and I a styrofoam cup filled with some kind of frozen mango yummy goodness.  He wanted us to try it, because he would be having it in his restaurant.  Such a nice guy!  Everyone in that shop is super sweet and patient with us trying to learn the language.  Let's just hope I have a dresser soon!

But while I am lacking a dresser,  I have three beautiful, unexpected drawers that were built into a shelving unit in my closet.  Ray was leaving them empty, so I snatched them up for the time being and pushed the suitcase aside.  We are also without patio furniture, but I remembered that I have these awesome beach chairs, so I sat outside in the breeze (we had a slight breeze!) reading a book and watching the cows run in front of the mountain.  We do not have a dining room table, but the six bar stools will suffice, and we have yet to cook a meal here, so why do we need a space to dine right now?  In good time.  House Hunters International filming started late yesterday afternoon and, perhaps, they will "stage" a dining area?

 With the start of HHI yesterday, our back story was filmed and our interview took place in our Chame rental home.  It was the shortest day with the crew.  Thankfully, the Producer, Elizabeth, and the Cameraman, Mike, are two of the four crew members filming our story in Panama.  They were with us at the lake house filming with Carly in February.  Along with Elizabeth and Mike, Chris, is the Sound man, and Stephanie is the "fixer".  She is the Production Assistant and has been all over the world, along with the others, filming different television shows as well as being part of the crew on movie sets.  Today through Saturday we started touring three possible properties that we are considering buying along with visiting our Spanish teacher for a lesson, El Pampero for the Spanish speaking restaurant experience, and taking time out to sit on the beach.  There will be a reveal decision filmed at Coronado Golf Resort.  Along the way, Ray and I will visit every Happy Hour in town!  haha

First, I am assuming House Hunters International is understood by all.  Let me explain what I know of it, or what I learned so long ago when I simply googled the ins and outs of buying a house on national television in a foreign country.  HHI is an American reality television show that airs on HGTV channel.  I have yet to find this channel with our cable package in Panama.  The premise is that a family, couple or individual searches for a new home in a foreign country with a realtor.  There are three properties featured in the show.  More often than not, the buyers of the home have already decided on which of the three properties they want to put an offer in for, and they have purchased the home.  The final minutes of the thirty minute show reveals what home the buyer purchased and how they made it their home.  It is a reality television show.  People are sought out by being far along in the process of buying a home.  Viewers are privy to the contributors (me and Ray in this case) setting a budget, touring properties, and then discussing the pros and cons of the properties.

Yesterday was, I hope, the only grueling day we would experience over the next four days of filming the show.  The crew arrived at our rental house at two pm.  They wanted to interview Ray and I, and then we were asked to talk about life in Panama.  How have we fared in Panama so far, how have we enjoyed the Chame area where we chose to rent our first home, and and how have we found our rental home to fit our needs of living in Panama these past few months.  To keep noise to a minimum, the air conditioning unit and the ceiling fans had to be turned off completely.  It was so hot.  And let's throw in there extremely humid.  During a quick change of camera lenses, I put my head in the freezer (after ducking into the bedroom for a cold blast of air).  I also encouraged Elizabeth to hold onto a freezer pack.  There were, as usual, no cross breezes coming through any windows so opening them was not an option.  Plus, wind makes noise.  But in one scene, Ray and I are discussing our appointment with Roberto, our realtor.  We "hesitantly" cracked open two beers during this scene!  It's all we had left in the house.  We had left beers in the refrigerator on purpose for our landlord. And then Ray is shown watching television, and I am reading my book on the hammock outside--in my pretty sundress.  You know, it's my usual attire when lying in a hammock.  And then the sky opened up, and the rain came pouring down sideways.  The thunder was intense with loud crackling and booming--for all of fifteen minutes.  Once the rain and mostly the noise subsided, the exterior shots of the house could then be filmed, and we were done with the day.  With that part, at least.

Ray and I then went to Picasso's to meet our friends for dinner.  An expat was singing, so we were determined to stay and enjoy his live music.  We had never seen him play before, so while we ate burgers and chicken stir fry, we met up with more friends, and also chatted with the HHI crew that had arrived for dinner.  We had had such a leisurely morning forgetting to do laundry while we hung out waiting to get the day started with HHI, so once home, we knew we were faced with chores.  We also had a wonderful face time chat with Carly.  She wanted to hear all about our first day back with the HHI crew, and we, of course, wanted to hear about her week.  She went on to bake cookies for Administrative Assistant Appreciation week, and we crashed.

This morning we had to be in Coronado at eight am.  We have three properties we are looking at in the coming days.  We had our "back story" interview in our rental, but Roberto is then showing us homes in Gorgona and Coronado.  We are also going to look at the model homes in the Azura community of Rodeo Viejo.  Today, we stayed in Coronado with Roberto.  He is such a pleasure to work with, and he really made the day go by quickly!  He and his wife, Marla, were on HHI in 2013 as contributors so he understands the format.  They have both been fantastic to work with these past seven months, and this experience, even just based on today, was a joy.  It was a long day, with a lunch break at Coronado Cafe, but the seven of us made the most of it and filled it with a lot of laughs.  At the end of the day, the sunset was filmed (B roll as they call it which to me mostly means Ray and I are not part of the scene), we drank wine, and ate chicken wings that our friends had brought over to us.  Twelve hours later, Ray and I settled into our big comfy couch preparing ourselves for our second full day of HHI in this time that is seeming not so much like retirement right now.

Roberto from United Country Realty Panama discussing our wish list.